After months of sniping and argument, America's allies are finally beginning to speak with a unified voice when it comes to Iraq. Canada isn't among them, not surprising since Prime Minister Jean Chretien's recent statements concerning Canadian involvement in a war against Iraq are so convoluted that four major newspapers reported four different policy positions on the subject the same day.
Nor are U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's "old Europe" members of the club. France, which unilaterally and without U.N. permission sent troops into the Ivory Coast, and Germany, whose major corporations may have helped Saddam Hussein's weapons programs, remain at least for the moment on the sidelines.
Rather, some unlikely countries have, to use Chretien's post-September 11 promise, decided to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States even if reluctantly. Jordan, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are actively assisting the United States while Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Syria and even Iran are quietly providing support or about to openly declare it. For some of these countries throwing their lot in with America's is merely an exercise in realpolitik -- more in response to continued American aid then any real desire to fight terrorism -- but help it is nonetheless.
President Bush had it exactly right when in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon that America's real friends wouldn't be those who immediately had words of condolence, but rather they would be the ones who stuck with the country as it exacted its revenge on al Qaeda and the Taliban and embarked on a wider campaign against terrorism and its supporters. What began with worldwide expressions of sympathy and solidarity now sees world leaders -- allegedly allies -- work openly to block America's wartime agenda.
Assisting America in what seems an inevitable war in Iraq is a risky proposition for Hussein's neighbors. The weapons of mass destruction that the Bush Administration believes Iraq possesses could just as easily be turned on them -- it already happened to Iran -- as Israel or the United States. Some of them, like Jordan, are reliant on trade with Iraq to maintain their weak economies. Yet despite that they are showing greater leadership then nations like Canada, France and Germany.
Although everyone is downplaying the recent hard feelings that the U.S. and several European nations are expressing towards each other it's hard not to look at it as the continued reorganization of global politics in the wake of September 11. As Rumsfeld pointed out, Europe is literally shifting towards the east with the addition of several former Warsaw Pact members to NATO, essentially making Germany and France far less important to America's foreign policy. The Bush Administration knows the continued intransigence of nations like Germany and France in expanding the war on terror, one those two nations have largely sat out, spotlights two competing views of the world.
European leaders like to argue that because their nations suffered so much during the Second World War they view it as a moral imperative to prevent war. Unfortunately they never learned why that war took place. By appeasing Adolf Hitler they eventually created an enemy too strong to be stopped easily. By preventing a preemptive war they promise to create a Saddam Hussein with weapons far more powerful and dangerous than Hitler ever possessed.
The Arab nations lining up to help America in the event of a war with Iraq may not have altruistic motives or even want Hussein deposed, especially since it means they could be next, but you can at least admire the fact they show more sense than the allegedly responsible nations of Europe. When it comes to the judgment of history, Europe will once again fall short.